Refuge bench installed in Strasbourg Rivétoile © DEFI-Écologique

An urban base that promotes biodiversity: the Refuge bench

Giving a new biodiversity function to an already existing object so as not to summon new budgets or new needs has been one of the keys to the development of the Refuge bench. If the idea may seem simple at first, it would have taken almost two and a half years of development and prototyping to arrive at a device that is consistent at all levels: a real challenge!

What is the Refuge bench?

The Refuge bench is an urban base for short rest under which are arranged 15 refuges filled with materials for attract and therefore preserve insects specifically targeted. Designed to position itself on the grids around the trees, the Refuge bench can also be installed elsewhere and thus finds its place in parks as well as on the street, in schools as in businesses, in nature reserves as in hotels.

Refuge bench installed in Strasbourg Rivétoile © DEFI-Écologique
Refuge bench installed in Strasbourg Rivétoile © DEFI-Écologique

The objectives of the Refuge bench

To dissociate the different objectives of the Refuge bench would be a mistake compared to a project which must be read as a whole.

  • To provide a quality technical response to the multitude of hotels with installed insects which have an undeniable educational virtue, but which have no technical veracity nor resistance to the urban environment.
  • Give a new function of biodiversity has an existing purpose so as not to convene new budgets or new needs,
  • Give an additional function to the grid at the feet of trees even if the device is not subservient to the feet of trees,
  • Support the return of nature to the city,
  • Concretely question citizens on the place of Nature in the city,
  • Give more depth to the ban on the use of phytosanitary products,
  • Bring mediation to the environment in public space to talk about insects whose sympathy capital is still very poor and this through the educational panel (QRcode),
  • Deploy a standardized entomofauna reception system with the possibility, thanks to the participative program linked to each Refuge bench by the same QRcode, for everyone to send information from observations all over France and elsewhere.
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Does it work ?

A question that often comes up when it comes todevelopments promoting biodiversity is "does it work"? If the question may seem legitimate at first sight, it also implies a dichotomy that Nature knows very little about.
Obviously all ecological projects of this type require monitoring and evaluation, but what colossal means would be necessary to assess the effectiveness of the device in the first sense of the term (type of land, number of devices installed, duration of installation, characterization nearby habitats, etc.) and for how long should this study be carried out with regard to the characteristics of each species?
So yes, the benches followed so far welcome insects, but these benches also welcome users who rest there, students who participate in their installation and people who observe life there, the Refuge bench having multiple reading levels to "walk" no matter what!
And for purists of the naturalistic dichotomy, the answer will be given over time with feedback, on a standardized entomofauna device, through the participative program that accompanies each device.

Business and Environment Awards (PEE) 2019
DEFI-Écologique and its Refuge® bench won the Grand Jury in the category jury “Biodiversity” of the 2019 Business and Environment Awards (PEE) competition from the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition and ADEME!
Award given by peers to a jury made up of both the AFB and the LPO, the AFIE (French Association of Engineers in Ecology) or the Ministry and ADEME to name a few and chaired by the Deputy Director of Expertise of the National Museum of Natural History.

Business and Environment Awards

Entomofauna targeted by the Refuge® bench

Installation of Colmar materials © DEFI-Écologique
Installation of Colmar materials © DEFI-Écologique

Insects are very demanding little beasts, for many of them. There are indeed many insects in very specific environments, whether on a particular plant or in a specific biotope.
It is in a way the same with different materials, which will attract a specific type of insect.
We therefore compiled a mass of data and feedback to finally select a whole range of materials, depending on the insects present in urban areas, whether they are known or supposed to attract. Several intermediate experiences have already allowed us to see for ourselves, and with frankly undisguised pleasure, that we are right.

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But the work of targeting insects present in urban areas, non-annoying (which do not hurt) and interested in certain materials was not everything. We have also worked on the shape and size of the facade openings after painting in order to best meet the needs of the target insects, going as far as defining the earth color of sienna as potentially interesting for certain targeted insects and in particular the lacewings.
All that remains is to respect the installation recommendations as diverse as they are varied (geographic context, orientation, etc.), and the system takes on its full meaning in public space.

Eco conception and solidarity

Steel and solid wood are the two main materials of the Refuge® bench. The wish is to offer a long-lasting, city-proof system, both for quality of use and for increased durability.
Steel, treated with a Powder Blast technique that does not use any product harmful to the environment (being free of acids or heavy metals), ensures the mechanical strength and durability of the Refuge® bench. The Powder Blast technique allows a fair use of the quantities of finishing material and ensures the recovery of the powders for reuse.
The locust wood is naturally class 4 wood, allowing it to be held outdoors without any treatment. The wood chips are stored in silos and heat the site for energy recovery.
The choice of finishes also plays its role in the project. First of all, the choice of a textured paint makes it possible to counter problems of slipping on the ground surface. Then, the choice of color is to be measured in the contrast that black brings with sienna.

Educational panel of a Refuge bench in Mulhouse © DEFI-Écologique
Educational panel of a Refuge bench in Mulhouse © DEFI-Écologique

Attention was also paid to the origin of the materials and the principles of eco-design. With a carpentry, locksmith and paint chain production unit, Sineu Graff, the industrial partner of DEFI-Écologique, ensures all production on a single site.
The 15 materials chosen to garnish the Refuge benches were selected so as to work with small producers, harvesters or manufacturers as close as possible to the packaging site which is none other than an ESAT (Establishment and Service of Aid by the Work) and all the carpentry work on these same materials is carried out by an Institute for the reintegration of out-of-school youth.

Complete description of the Refuge bench in .pdf

And what next?

DEFI-Écologique is a collective of entrepreneurs fromSocial and solidarity economy brought together as an environmental design office. The design office is made up of “entrepreneur-employees” because all of them are members of an Activity and Employment Cooperative (CAE). The cooperative principle meets several urgent political and economic needs:

  • Find meaning in his work,
  • Organize the business differently,
  • Create a new way of living together.
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Thus each Refuge bench installed is a victory both for the device as such, but also for our ability to invest in all the field projects that we wish to concretize, for our ability to support our Défi-Ecologique blog and that of living with dignity in the protection of biodiversity.

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